After four years of limited skiing at Badger Pass due to the lack of snow, this year’s ample snowfall has provided great conditions for the nearly 200 Mountain Area elementary school students receiving weekly ski lessons through the Mountain Area Ski School (MASS).
Weather conditions and fresh snow made for perfect conditions for the young skiers on Jan. 8 and 15.
“MASS is a 100% volunteer program created more than 50 years ago by a group of volunteers,” said Calvin Lyster, head of the MASS board of directors. “The group consisted of mostly moms and teachers who were motivated by the notion of providing an opportunity to educate the students on the winter activities that are available in our own backyard.”
Lyster, who has been involved in the program for 40 years, said he was pleased to see the operation running efficiently while serving a large number of area students.
“What contributes to the smoothness of the days at Badger Pass is the dedication of our instructors, staff, and support of all the MASS volunteers,” Lyster said. “MASS has generations of Mountain Area people who have committed themselves to the success of the program. Many of our current instructors were students in MASS years ago.”
Jon Peltier, director of snowboard instruction, was a student at North Fork Elementary School when he learned to ski through the MASS program.
“Students learn the necessary skills to become proficient snowboarders,” Peltier said. “We have an amazing group of instructors ready and willing to teach all levels of snowboarding from first-timers to advanced.”
Charlene Clark, an eight year ski instructor with Mass, began her career with the program when her daughter was in first grade. Although her daughter was not old enough to be part of the program, Clark decided to become an instructor.
Eight years later, Clark’s daughter has grown out of the program, but she continues to instruct.
“There is more to MASS than the rewarding feeling of teaching our youth the techniques of skiing,” Clark said. “I didn’t have the opportunity to learn to ski when I was young. When I became a MASS instructor it allowed me to learn and became a better skier myself.”
“The most important aspect of MASS is witnessing the progress of the students,” Lyster said. “Over 300 students signed up for the program this year and, due to the lack of snow the last two years, many of them will start this year at the first level status. Many of our instructors will enjoy teaching and watching these students progress through the season and ultimately through the years.”
Brittany Sultana, an eighth grader from Coarsegold Elementary School who has been in the program since fifth grade, couldn’t wait to join her class of “C” level students.
“I am enjoying the beautiful conditions and having a blast,” Sultana said.
Ivie Mazzola, another eighth grader from Coarsegold, couldn’t agree more.
“I love it,” she said, although she did display some sadness that, as an eighth grader, this will be her last year in the program. “Too bad it ends this year for all the eighth graders … I will miss MASS.”
Volunteer instructor Leo Miner said the students are quick learners.
“We’ve had two great days at Badger,” Miner said. “Every student learned new skills, and they all skied down Bruin successfully.”
All students pay a once-a-year registration fee of $25. Then $15 per day of instruction. Students who qualify must display excellent behavior, attendance and have no late assignments. No student who qualifies will be deprived of the opportunity to learn to ski/snowboard, so scholarships are available on an very confidential basis.
Details: MASS hotline, (559) 683-1430.
Matt Casey is a MASS board member who has volunteered for the program for 20 years